Due to the disruption of Covid-19, HOPS is conducting remote business and farm audits until government guidelines are changed but farms still need to prepare in advance.

Once an agreed audit date has been set, farms will need to upload relevant documentation online 48-hours prior to the audit by the auditor.

Once the documents are reviewed, the second stage of the remote audit will be conducted by telephone to help finalise the report. It is envisaged that the audit will take approximately one to one and a half hours, but this will depend on how much information the farm has uploaded prior to the audit.

Before the report is submitted to HOPS, the auditor will discuss and agree any findings with the farm. The farm will also receive a copy of the report and any required actions.

The remote audits are providing an accurate picture of what is happening on the farm as recent external and internal photos are part of the submission and there is a checklist of information the farm must provide.

It is envisaged that a follow-up onsite visit will take place once restrictions are lifted. These visits will require a tour of the site and facilities (accommodation) and where possible, to meet with placed HOPS workers. This visit will take approximately one hour and be one of several for the day as an area of visits will be grouped.

The remote audits that have taken place so far have worked successfully said external auditor Dave Back.

“I like remote audits as I have more time to review the documents and make notes. The feedback from growers in relation to ease of the audits has so far been positive too. Farms are able to collate the information and upload it in one hit or as individual files. Additional staff can also be given access by HOPS to the online folder so they can upload information too. The only downside is not getting to speak to farmers or workers face-to-face.”

Dave hopes that some parts of the remote audit will remain post-Covid as there have been some major benefits, such as more time to review documents and fewer car trips.

“Remote audits give me and the farm time to prepare and then I can follow up with a short site visit. I complete many miles annually and not only is it better for the environment, it also saves a lot of lost travel time.”